Democratic Attorney Generals File Lawsuit Against President Trump

“Democrats having been all but marginalized…, state governments now seem to be taking the lead in trying to challenge the Republican president.”

Democratic state-level attorney generals are attempting to turn up the heat on Donald Trump, claiming that the president is in violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution. President Trump’s vast business empire is active globally, and the attorney generals of Maryland and Washington, D.C. now allege that payments to his businesses could be in violation of the emolument clause.

The emoluments clause is vital for protecting against corruption, as it forbids American politicians and officials from accepting valuable gifts from foreign governments. The clause also forbids nobility and the acceptance of any noble titles from foreign governments.

Now, Washington, D.C.’s attorney general Karl Racine and Maryland’s Brian Frosh are jointly pursuing a lawsuit against President Trump. This marks the first time that a government entity has gone after Trump as president via lawsuits. With Democrats having been all but marginalized within Washington, D.C., state governments now seem to be taking the lead in trying to challenge the Republican president.

President Trump had initially promised to divorce himself from his private companies, but so far it appears that he remains closely connected. His sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, now oversee the day-to-day operations of the Trump Organization. However, with Donald Trump Senior still retaining ownership and not having put his funds into a blind trust, Racine and Frosh allege that the president is in violation of the emolument clause.

Specifically, the clause states, “No person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.”

The difficulty comes in untangling potential violations of the clause, which clearly focus on presents, titles, and the like. With the organization operating in countless countries and generating nearly $10 billion dollars in revenue, money is flowing in from abroad. It’s possible that some of these payments are illegitimate or are being made to curry favor with the president.

Interestingly, the focus of the lawsuit centers on the brisk business at the Trump International Hotel near the White House. Many foreign leaders and visitors have made it a point to choose the Trump Hotel. The attorney generals claim that this is driving business away from public-supported facilities in D.C. and Maryland.

The lawsuit notes that the Kuwaiti Embassy recently switched reservations for an event from the Four Seasons to the Trump Hotel. Meanwhile, a public relations firm with connections to Saudi Arabia has spent nearly $300,000 dollars at Trump’s venues, while the Turkish government held an event at the D.C. Trump hotel just last month.

This raises the risk of foreign governments and organizations potentially sending payments through the Trump Organization as a form of bribery. Tracking any such payments and determining whether or not they were legitimate payments for goods and services would be exceptionally difficult.

Maryland attorney general Frosh claims that the Trump Organization and its payments from foreign entities constitute a “vast” violation of the emoluments clause. The amount of money flowing in, according to Frosh, raises the question of whether or not Trump will be acting in the best interests of the American people, or possibly acting in the interest of foreign governments and organizations.

Brian Brinker

Brian Brinker is a political consultant and has an M.A in Global Affairs from American University.

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